About two weeks ago, I was on my way home from work, on my way to the school to pick up the kids when my phone rang.
I looked at the number and recognized it as being the school, so I picked up, curious. The children have been getting smart, realizing that if they go to the nurse, and they are sick, that I will come get them. I take this with a grain of salt, and I think the nurse does too.
"Anna? I have Ryan here in my office. At recess..."
I'm expecting the next sentence to be "He fell and broke his arm" as it seems to be the third grade injury of the year thus far.
"...he got kicked in the shoulder, and it left a red mark. I'm just letting you know so you aren't alarmed when you see it. He's okay, and the principal is handling it--the other child is being dealt with."
I felt my foot push down on the accelerator, Mama-bear rising. I look at the speedometer, and back off a little.
"Can I talk to him?" I ask. She puts him on. "Sugar? What happened?"
"Well. I was at recess, and this girl just started kicking me in the shoulder real hard. I couldn't even get up. And I didn't want to get up and kick her back and get in trouble..." I interrupt. "What do you mean? Why were you on the ground during recess to begin with?"
"I wasn't on the ground. I was in the slide tube, and waiting my turn and she just started kicking me." I feel my foot get leady again. This time, I'm not backing off.
"Are you okay?" "I'm okay. But the principal is here and I have to go talk to her..." "Fine, baby. Give the phone to the nurse." I tell her I will be there in a few minutes.
I feel my ire rise, and as Ryan is a pretty sweet kid, I feel my eyes cloud at the thought of anyone hurting him, for any reason, especially one as ridiculous as impatience for the slide. I realize I need to talk to someone. I consider my calming prospects at the time, and choose Mr W.
Because he is at work. Because truly, in my deepest heart of hearts, he is the protector, job notwithstanding, I'm a little girly when it comes to that. Not that I won't stand up for myself or the kids, it just helps to have backup. And honestly? Selfishly, and unfair advantagely?
I want him in the office, in his uniform, because I hope the sight of him will scare the holy bejesus shit out of the girl who kicked Ryan.
When I call him, he is far away. He's busy. I know if I ask, he will drop everything and come, but I haven't assessed the situation yet. So I let him know what's happening. And he gives me the lowdown he knows from work, and tells me to stay calm. Fine, I agree, taking a deep breath. And in the next, I wonder, for a second, if Remo is busy....if only to get some more 'chill, Anna' advice. I settle for replaying Mr W's voice in my head, as retelling the story will only work up my Mama-bear instinct again.
I arrive at the school and make a beeline for the office, stern face (for the girl) at the ready.
Ryan isn't there, but the principal takes me into her office and tells me what happened.
Indeed, Ryan was in the slide tube, and the girl got impatient and started kicking him. "When they were here in my office, Ryan was very assertive with her, I was really impressed. He told her that she really hurt him, and she didn't apologize and that wasn't right. He really stood up for himself, you should be proud." I think to myself I'd feel prouder if he'd pulled an aikido move and put the hurt back on the girl, but understand his reaction. I'd heard the 'it's a girl' note in his voice. He was being a little chivalrous in spite of it all, and I can't fault him for that, for keeping his composure.
Then she tells me that he actually bears the mark of this girl's shoe sole on his shoulder. I think, hmm, that's a far cry, an imprint of a shoe, from "a red mark." I feel it coming on...
"Who is the little girl?" I manage, barely avoiding gritting my teeth.
I hear Mr W's voice in my head. "If you feel yourself getting irritated, before you burn the place down, get Ryan and leave the office."
I cut the conversation as shortly and politely as I can; she has duty so it goes smoothly and we part ways.
I find Ryan as the bell rings. I ask him to show me his shoulder. He pulls his shirt back, and I see circles and tread marks; indeed the near-perfect imprint of the sole.
I intake a sharp breath at the sight of it, but I am cool. I am collected. I want someone's ass on a plate, but I gather up him, and Ben, and Audrey, and take them home without incident. Once inside, he elaborates, and I tell him he reacted appropriately, but in the future, he has our permission to defend himself, even if it means getting in trouble at school, he won't be in trouble at home if it's justified. (His Dad repeated this to him later.)
On our way to pick up Nolan at school, Ryan is telling me something. He sits way in the back of the van, so sometimes, I am ashamed to admit, I am smiling and nodding and not hearing everything he says. This time, the word "secret" and "Mrs. X" gets my attention. Mrs. X is not his teacher. Why is she telling him a secret? I prompt him to start over.
"Mrs. X told me a secret. She said that this little girl, she used to live with her Mom and Dad, but the Dad left her; and it was just her and her Mom, but then her Mom left her too, and she went to live with her grandmother. Then her Dad came back around, and she doesn't really know him, and now she might have to go live with him, too, and she doesn't want to. And she's very, very angry about that."
WTF? Why is he hearing this story, one that might be told on Jerry Springer? I'm perplexed. Then the light goes off in my head.
"Was she talking about the girl who kicked you?" I ask. "Yeah. She's angry...." I cut him off. "We'll talk about this at home," I tell him, "because I can't do it and drive right now," I explain.
I'm pissed. Why this teacher felt compelled to share the student's life story is highly inappropriate on many levels, I feel, the least of which is that Ryan is nine years old, and fortunately, he doesn't know a world like hers, other than his uncle being divorced, he doesn't know that kind of situation. While I realize the world is full of situations like that, I don't think that at nine, he is equipped with the means to process that. And he certainly should not feel that the other child's behavior is fine based on her home life. Besides, I am certain the student in question wouldn't like her laundry being aired like that either.
Nine year old keeping a secret? Please.
Once we get home, Ryan and I chat. I commend him all the way round for a cool head and a warm heart. I tell him that while "Sally"s situation makes her angry, it's still not okay for her to kick him--or anyone.
Of course, I still wanted to go to school have a few words with Mrs. X, but I decide that face-to-face with her would probably not be a good idea for me; and it was the Friday before a long weekend, so the school would be empty.
But that Tuesday when we went back, I sought out our student affairs lady (counselor) and ran it by her. I told her I wasn't out to be snitchy, but I didn't approve of the "secret" telling. While I understood the teacher's motive, I just wanted her to know that maybe they should address the sharing of information during a staff meeting or something. She came up with a plan I agreed was a good one.
Sure, it was passive-aggressive, but I didn't want it to come back to me, and/or Ryan. Besides, I knew that it would be best to just let it fade along with the mark on Ryan's shoulder. He was fine, in the end; making a huge stink about it was not necessary.
Sometimes, Mama-bear has to be content watching from the wings.
And believe me, she's watching.